We use ordinary spirit to polish wood, and it contains ethanol. What makes ethanol a good polishing agent for wood? What effect does it causes on wood so that it shines?

  • $\begingroup$ Spirit polish, as it is termed, has shellac dissolved in the ethanol. Could you post a picture of the product you use? I suspect there is more going on here. $\endgroup$ – repurposer Sep 1 '16 at 1:48

Ethanol is an organic solvent. I would guess that it makes wood shine by:

  1. Cleaning the surface, dissolving away organic compounds
  2. Maybe slightly dissolving (?) a thin layer of cellulose at the surface of the wood, removing irregularities and making it more malleable, hence easier to polish

There may be more specific interactions between wood and ethanol, but I don't know about them.

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